Monday, January 08, 2007

First and 10: Michael 37, Fredo 16

1. I suppose we could talk about the wacky tempo of this game, the closer-than-the-final-score tension, the compelling moves and countermoves by a pair of coaches that know each other's tactics and strategies and tics and quirks so well. And I suppose we could talk about the return of the Patriots' duende, that old tough-guy swagger, and the growing belief that this team has picked the perfect time to play it's best football of the season. I suppose we could talk about all those things . . . and we will, right after we get to the obligatory storyline of the day: Belichick hugged him! He hugged Mangini! He did! And he cold-cocked cameraman to do it! Stop the presses! STOP THE PRESSES, I SAY!!!, (Can we let this stupid melodrama die now? Please? We can? Oh, thank God. Now let's talk some football . . . )

2. So much for longing for the departed, huh? Jabar Gaffney (8 catches, 104 yards) comes through with a performance right out of the Deion Branch postseason highlight reel. Stephen Gostkowski boots three field goals, including a 40-yarder, thus silencing the "They should have paid Adam!" banshees for at least one day. And the emerging Tully Banta-Cain does a more than passable Willie McGinest imitation, delivering two sacks. Nope, not a bad day for the replacements at all.

3. His final stats (22-of-34, 212 yards, 2 TDs) aren't all that extraordinary, but anyone who watched the game knows that Tom Brady was masterful today, in particular on the crucial 1-yard touchdown pass to Daniel Graham. Not only did he have the presence of mind to realize the Jets defender had his back to the play, but he made an absolutely perfect throw to the one spot where Graham could get it. You simply cannot throw a better pass than Brady did on that play. I was so impressed, I ended up rewinding the DVR and watching it three times immediately after it happened. What a throw, what a performance, what a quarterback. (Can I fawn anymore here? I know, I sound like Theismann.)

4. Pete Carroll to the Dolphins? It's the hot rumor of the day, and you know I'm jacked and pumped just thinking about it. Carroll is an idiot if he leaves USC - his rah-rah enthusiasm is perfect for the college game, and as we learned the hard way in New England, not so perfect for the NFL. It sure would be fun having him back in the division, though.

5. Talk about coming up big in your walk year. He's coming off like the defensive version of Rod Tidwell at the moment, but I'm starting to think Asante Samuel is going to be worth the ridiculous money some team is going to throw at him next year. (And for the record, I'd wager a Freeman McNeil rookie card that said team will be the J-E-T-S, Jets-Jets-Jets. It makes too much sense not to happen.)

(This here is Freeman McNeil, in case you have no freakin' idea who I was just talking about.)

6. I don't know about you, but this Pats fan has immense respect for the Jets right now. They're obviously well-coached, showed signs of maturity by refusing to make excuses in defeat, and should they add talent to the Vilmas and Rhodeses and Cotcherys, they're going to be a formidable foe for the Patriots for years to come. And count me in as a Chad Pennington fan. He's what Brady would be after a half-dozen Tommy John surgeries. The arm is feeble, but he knows what to do with the football.

7. Okay, so Vince Wilfork doesn't quite have breakaway speed, and if he's actually within 20 pounds of his listed 325, then I'm Nicole Richie. But man, was he immense in every sense today. Not only did he have the presence of mind to pick up the grounded lateral when everyone else was standing around and looking at the pretty lighthouse, but he routinely swallowed up Jets running backs who dared plunge into the line of scrimmage as the Pats limited the Jets to 76 yards on the ground. Wilfork's return to health gives me a shred of faith that L.T. might just be containable.

8. Vinny Testaverde is quickly turning into this team's Human Victory Cigar. I'm sure Jets fans were just thrilled to see a ghost from disappointments past out there putting the finishing touches on the end of their season.

9. Did you catch Shawne Merriman's interview at halftime with the CBS studio crew? The Chargers' All-Pro meathead actually claimed the Jets were outplaying the Pats and would win the game. Wishful thinking there, pal. And what the hell was he wearing? Something from the Kmart "Flashdance" collection? A onesie from Baby Gap? His favorite muscle shirt to show off his 'roided-up guns? Nope, it's not going to be too hard to work up vitriol for this joker this week. Not hard at all.

10. As for today's Completely Random Football Card:

Yep, Jabar's old man wore the green and white. Must have been just delightful for Jets fans, getting tormented by a name from their past repeatedly today.

(Thanks to reader TMurph for the suggestion.)

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